My cat jumps onto our kitchen counters frequently, sometimes causing major accidents. What is the best way to break that habit? Would I need one of those electric shocker things?

  • I guess I've been lucky; I've always found that some combination of the squirt bottle and a barked "hey!" or "no!" eventually does the job as long as I'm completely consistent about which surfaces are Not For Kitty. Or at least it convinces them to be very careful not to be caught, which is good enough for me. – keshlam Sep 28 '15 at 23:46

One option for "punishing" cats that works with some of them is to get a water spray bottle. You then spray them with it when they jump up on something you don't want them on.

Please be sure to use a bottle that is just for water and never had any chemicals in it (could be harmful to them since it could get into their eyes and cats lick themselves a lot)

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    I'll try it out. Thanks for the idea :) – Timtech Oct 9 '13 at 15:49
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    I use a spray bottle but they just jump back up as soon as I leave the room (and jump down when I re-enter the room). – smcg Feb 19 '14 at 20:36

Two methods that I have found my cats respond to quite well:

  1. Some sort of loud noise:

    • Clapping your hands
    • Snapping your fingers (if you can do it loud enough)
  2. Placing some tin foil on the counter. I would make strips of foil and bend them in the middle so that they stand up (something like this) and place them on the edges of the counter. I placed them like that so that it was possible to see the reflective foil even from the cat's eye level.

    I noticed that my cats didn't really like the sound or the touch of the foil so they learned pretty fast that up there lies the noisy shiny stuff monster. After ~1 week I didn't have to set out the foil any more.

The first option is a pretty much generic method that I use for any sort of bad behavior and is really only an option when I'm around. If you do catch the feline in-the-act of jumping up, your reaction should be immediate and consistent. If you have more people living with this cat, make sure you are all enforcing the same boundaries.

The tin foil however is great for when you're not at home. If you come back, and the foil is in exactly the same place, you'll know that the cat hasn't been up there.

Oh and please, no "electric shocker thing"

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    Yes! We also used twisted-up blue painter's tape with ours. She learned quick. – Andrew Barber Oct 12 '13 at 19:12
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    @AndrewBarber Haha, that would work ;) – Timtech Oct 13 '13 at 11:40
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    My cats think tin-foil is a toy, but I had success using empty 2L pop bottles. Just lined them up on the edge of the counter and she hasn't been up there since scaring herself a few times by knocking them all down. I don't like your first option because then the cat associates being reprimanded for getting on the counter with you, so just does it when you're not around :) – Rachel Feb 25 '14 at 17:36
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    @Rachel - When I answered this post, my cats were really kittens (just a few months old). I guess the "noise" that the foil made was enough for them. Your empty cans is pretty much the same idea - something that triggers a startling noise. It's worked great for us - just a few months later and the monsters are no longer counter surfing... Either that or we're just not seeing them do it :P – Lix Feb 25 '14 at 17:41

Also, since you're not going to be in the kitchen all the time, you could consider getting one of the movement-activated hissing cans (sorry, I'm not at home and can't look up the brand information). That way, you can avoid the cat thinking that the only time it needs to avoid the counters is when you're there.

The cans are about the size of a soda can, with a motion sensor that will trigger and spray a jet of air that makes a hissing noise when it detects anything (It works. Startles the heck out of you if you set it off accidentally).

One caveat - try not to laugh at the cat when it gets startled by the hissing can. They don't like that.

Kyle is right, Negative reinforcement is probably the best solution to a problem like this, since you cant really reward them for not going on the counter and expect them to understand. If your finding it hard to always keep a spray bottle near the counter cats usually respond to yelling as well

also make sure your cats are'nt doing it because they know it gets your attention, check their food and water after each time, and make sure to pet them regurlarly

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    yes and a hissing sound. I flick water from my fingers if I'm at the sink – Yvette Colomb Oct 9 '13 at 16:50
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    What Kyle describes is punishment, not negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is removing a noxious stimulus to reward correct behavior. – Carey Gregory Feb 19 '14 at 18:31

Never use a spray bottle...all that does is make your cat afraid of you!

According to behaviorist Pam Johnson Bennett,

The squirt bottle technique only accomplishes three things:

  1. It creates frustration in the cat
  2. It causes the cat to become afraid of you
  3. The cat learns to wait until you aren’t around before engaging in the behavior

Additionally, behaviorist Jackson Galaxy (of the television show My Cat From Hell) states:

What is the cat actually learning in this scenario? Is he learning that the counter is a bad place to be be? No. What Tigger is learning is that, first, the counter is a bad place to be when you are present and holding the squirt bottle, and second, he is learning to be afraid of you. The bottle appears to him as an extension of your arm, and it is you, not the bottle, that is getting him wet.

Other training techniques can be found in the question: How should I discipline my cat for bad behavior?

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    Not true in my experience. – keshlam Sep 28 '15 at 23:40
  • The recent edits do a lot to improve this answer. – James Jenkins Oct 1 '15 at 17:49
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    Actually, I've known one cat who decided he liked being squirted, and deliberately provoked until the humans caught on and stopped rewarding him. I can certainly imagine that some cats might be scared by the squirt bottle, especially if it makes a hissing sound, but the more common reaction I've seen is startlement and mild distaste. Popular behaviorists tend to overgeneralize their own experience and overestimate their knowledge. That isn't to say that they might not have good ideas for alternatives, though – keshlam Oct 2 '15 at 1:51
  • Agree. The squirt bottle is a game...how much can I get away with before my owner tries to squirt me...and I bet I can run away before I get squirted. You are unknowingly giving kitty your attention (positive reinforcement). Remember: Negative attention is still attention. – KittyConsultant Oct 2 '15 at 13:32

If saying no in a stern voice and picking them up and putting them down doesn’t work, then try putting tin foil on your counter tops. The noise will scare them and eventually they won’t even want to attempt it anymore. Whatever you do, don’t spray them. It’s cruel and cats don’t understand why you're doing it.

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